I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 January 2022

I’ve been catching public transport to travel down onto the Mornington Peninsula and so I have had hours and hours to listen to podcasts! Many, many hours. Add to that long walks along the beach, and I’ve listened my ears off!

Emperors of Rome My, there’s a lot of episodes about Septimius Severus. Obviously Dr Caillan Davenport (Roman History, Macquarie University) is a bit of a fan. He calls him ‘Septimius’ so I’ll go with that in this summary. Anyway, in Episode LXXXVI – Ascent to Greatness, However Steep and Dangerous Septimius goes off to fight the second Parthian war, which he wins, enabling him to add that to his very long name. In 10 years, he only spends 6 months in Rome. As part of his rewriting history to make him part of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty, Septimius renames his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and at the age of nine gives him the title of Augustus and makes him co-emperor. He also marries Marcus Aurelius Antoninus off to his right hand man Plautianus’ daughter Plautilla but they hated each other.

Episode LXXXVII – Severan Stories I takes an ‘episodes’ approach. Act I – A hair of the beard looks at Plautianus and his rise to prominence as Septimius’ close advisor. But the family hated him, and when his downfall came at the hands (though not the sword) of Antoninus, they cut off a hair from his beard. Act II – Princes who adore you looks at Septimius’ sons Antoninus and Geta. Antoninus was definitely the favourite, and being only 9 months older than Geta, that must have really rankled. Act III – Cordially detested. Septimius had a close relationship with his wife Julia Domna, and the empire respected her as the mother of the dynasty. She is remembered as having a keen political mind and being a patron of thinkers, but there were always rumours about her (as was the case with most Roman empresses).

Episode LXXXVIII – Severan Stories II continues the ‘episodes’ approach. Act I – If you build it they will come talks about Septimius Severus’ building programs. There had been a fire at the end of Commodus’ reign, so rebuilding was in order. He rebuilt the Pantheon, and also took advantage of the opportunity to put his names (many names) and accomplishments onto buildings everywhere. Act II – The superfluous senators of Septimius Severus looks at how he thinned out the ranks of senators and got rid of perceived threats throughout his reign. Act III – I beg of no man looks at dissatisfaction amongst the people of Rome and the rise of Bulla the Brigand, who seemed to be a bit of a Robin Hood character.

Episode LXXXIX – A Man the World Could Not Hold sees Septimius head 25000 trooops over to Brittania, an island that had never completely been under Roman control. Perhaps he wanted a last victory, or maybe he wanted to toughen up his sons, or perhaps he wanted to prove that he still had ‘it’ even though Bulla the Brigand had been so hard to control. He won (a rather diffident victory) so he could add that name too. He told his feuding sons to live in harmony, look after the army, and pay no attention to anyone else. They did two out of three. Summing up his reign, Dr Caillan Davenport thinks that it’s unfortunate for Severus that he wasn’t included under the ‘Five Good Emperors’ label because he thinks that he was a good emperor, even though he gained power under messy circumstances.

Episode LXXXI – Livy I was driving, and this was the next podcast to come up so I listened, even though it has nothing to do with emperors. It features Professor Ronald Ridley (Honorary,Historical and Philosophical studies, University of Melbourne) who is a big fan of the historian Livy, who wrote an extensive and exhaustive history, spanning 142 books. The books were published in groups of 5, 10 or 15 and so ending at 142 is strange, unless he was making a statement that the death of Augustus was an end point. Any collection of 142 books is too big for a private library, so they were summarized. They have located only the first quarter. Ridley admires him for being the first historian, from which all other historians have drawn.

History Hit In the UK they have a 100 year privacy provision on their census (I’m not sure what the situation is here in Australia). The digitized census records were released late last year and are available through Findmypast. (Hmm. A private company). 1921 Census: Revealed features Audrey Collins, from The National Archives, and Myko Clelland, from Findmypast. It was the first census after WWI and there won’t be another release for 30 years because the 1931 Census was lost in a fire and the 1941 Census was never taken.

Travels Through Time As well as listening to podcasts about Rome, I write a feature for the Heidelberg Historical Society’s newsletter that looks at what was happening in Heidelberg one hundred years earlier. So I’m interested in the 1920s and looking for books about the decade. 1922: Scenes from a Turbulent Year features Nick Rennison who has recently released 1922: Scenes from a Turbulent Year where he goes through the year of 1922 month by month, taking a world history approach. His three scenes from 1922 were the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the assassination of the Weimar Republic politician Walter Rathernau and the trial of Hollywood comedian ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle for the murder of young starlet Virginia Rappe.

Demerara Rebellion 1823. Wikimedia

History Extra Podcast The Demerara Slave Uprising is advertised as being about a ‘little known’ uprising, but I actually am familiar with it because ‘my’ Judge Willis was one of the judges of the Court of Civil and Criminal Justice in British Guiana (i.e. Demerara) in 1831, eight years after the 1823 uprising. It had been strongly put down, but the tiny white minority had been unnerved by this uprising of enslaved people who vastly outnumbered them. The interview featured Thomas Harding, the author of White Debt: The Demerara Uprising and Britain’s Legacy of Slavery. He writes ‘narrative non-fiction’ but he acknowledges the assistance of Caribbean historians and seems to have stayed fairly close to the court records, diaries and correspondence.

This Union: A Sea Between Us (BBC) I enjoyed the series on Scotland, and so here I launched into Northern Ireland. This series had less of a historical emphasis, focussing mainly on current events since the Good Friday Agreement, from a Loyalist perspective. In Episode 1 Andrea Catherwood returns to her homeland in Northern Ireland, and interviews 19 year old Joel Keys who wasn’t even born when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. He spoke of the Loyalists sense of grievance since Brexit in particular, and the links between the paramilitaries and the drug trade. He explains his ambitions for a career in politics and determination to help his community tackle its social problems while retaining its British identity. Episode 2 starts at a Unionist march, where the men are wearing balaclavas again, evoking the sectarian Troubles of the 20th century. Many felt betrayed when Boris shifted the goalposts on Brexit, leading to the re-emergence of Loyalist violence. Episode 3 looks at the political instability in recent times, with a succession of leaders in both the DUP and the UUP. Unionists are no longer the majority in Northern Ireland, and many feel betrayed by Boris Johnson and the Sea Border. Young people are more concerned about rights (e.g. gay marriage) and many former Unionist are now agnostic about Northern Ireland’s place in the UK. They are the ‘middle’ who can only be swayed by moderates, not hardliners.

This Union: The Ghost Kingdoms of England. This four part series features Ian Hislop. I was a bit out of my depth because I didn’t have a very clear understanding of exactly where they were talking about. Episode 1: East Anglia- Sutton Who starts in Colchester, a Roman stronghold which the arriving Angles and Saxons chose to leave alone. He points out that the lights didn’t just go out when the Romans left in 409-410 A.D.- that the Romans are “us”. He then goes on to talk about Sutton Hoo, uncovered just before WW2. We still don’t really know what it is: is it the burial of one of the earliest of the great Kings of the Anglo-Saxon period in East Anglia’s golden age? Episode 2: Northumbria- The Great Divide focuses on the Venerable Bede who wrote about Northumbria in the early 8th century. The Humber was the dividing line. He also interviews the writer Bernard Cornwall, who wrote The Last Kingdom. Episode 3: Mercia- Where is Mercia? Good question- apparently it’s what’s known as the Midlands. The great Mercian Kings had European ambitions but were subsumed and written out by the story of Alfred the Great. Episode 4: Wessex: The Only Way is Wessex ends up with Alfred the Great. They started off after the other kingdoms, but in the end they dominated not only by the legend of Alfred, but also Thomas Hardy’s novels. This whole series was a bit beyond my limited geography and Anglo-Saxon history.

Heather Cox Richardson I haven’t listened to Heather Cox Richardson in ages, and now that the anniversary of 6 January has passed, I thought I might look to see what she had to say about the anniversary. What she gave was a really good lecture about Why does Democracy Matter? Nothing new, but really worth listening to. If you haven’t listened to her before, this is a good potted version.

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